This year I set myself a goal of improving my photography. Through journalism I am privileged to work with some of the best photographers in the country. Among my favourite Australian photographers are the lovely John Fryz, Sam McAdam, Sharyn Cairns, Mark Roper, Nick Watt, and Michael Wee. So I have been lazy when it comes to learning how to use our camera, even though I’ve had a lot of training in photography over the years at high school, university and on the job. Year 11 Photography with Mr Wakeling at Hurlstone Agricultural High School was more about hanging out with friends and gaining a foot in the door of a news room. First year university photography was terribly try-hard artistic. As a cadet journalist at The Highlands Post, Bowral, NSW, I had to take nearly all my own photographs with varying degrees of success. We were rostered to develop and print the film early Monday mornings so the photograph prints could be sent by the midday train to Goulburn for the newspaper to be layed out and printed (we are talking 1988-1989). After a Southern Highlands winter of Mondays in the freezing dark room it was a relief to move onto The Land newspaper and Country Style magazine where photography is the realm of professional photographers, not journalists.
Since then I have dabbled in photography, with a particular interest in recording our children growing up. Now I photograph goods for our store and our life at Nundle, but I’ve been aware there is something missing from the shots. I asked local photographer and teacher Digby Brown of Ufocus, Tamworth what it might be and we lined up some post production training in Lightroom software and I bought an entry level Digital SLR camera (Nikon D5300). That started ramping up the quality. Then I took up an online photography course, The Photo School, by photographers Peta Mazey and Kate Berry. This introduced concepts of composition, pattern, pretty light, shadow and the manual setting on the camera. Thanks ladies.
The third game changer was the first of Sophie Hansen’s Local is Lovely workshops, this one on photography and food styling, with Luisa Brimble and Stephanie Stamatis (Stephanie Somebody). I’ve been a fan of all three women for some time, so it was a wonderful opportunity to finally meet and learn from them. The workshop was so much more than I anticipated. Held on Sophie’s parents’ farm Kimbri, at Rydal, it is a creative and rural utopia. Big country landscapes, rustic farm buildings, romantic garden, delicious home cooked meals and warm hospitality. Even though I live in the country, this Central West landscape was refreshingly different and invigorating.
Stephanie and Luisa taught our inspired group how to introduce an element of drama to our photographs through our choice of props, background, photograph composition, context, and the important human element. A surprising part of the workshop was meeting so many women with similar interests and being encouraged by their creativity, enthusiasm and motivation. Memories of the workshop keep surfacing, bringing a smile to my face; Sophie and Willa’s cooking and graceful natures, Amelia’s The Flower Era thoughtful floristry, our excursion to Fabrice’s First Farm Organic’s market garden in the Kanimbla Valley, which included introducing Hong Kong resident Beverly to circle work and a wild kangaroo, sleeping in Clarice the vintage plywood caravan, early morning breakfast in the paddock against a backdrop of mist, and art lessons with Annie Herron. Luisa’s and Stephanie’s (styling below) words are with me when I am shooting. My pics are still hit and miss, but I hope I am hitting more than I am missing these days. I don’t want to be a professional photographer. I do love the mindfulness and appreciation that comes with carrying a camera and recording moments of beauty every day.
(Many of Sophie’s scrumptious recipes cooked throughout the two days are from her book and blog Local is Lovely are here and here.) I’ve enjoyed reading other’s records of the workshop including The Dailys, and Kulinary Adventures of Kath.